Our guest, Greg Harden, is a renowned peak performance coach best known for his work with Tom Brady and Michael Phelps. In today’s episode, Greg emphasizes the importance of self-knowledge, mental training, and understanding that fear and anxiety are natural parts of life to be managed, not feared. His latest book, “Stay Sane in an Insane World,” offers insights into achieving personal success and well-being by adopting self-supporting attitudes and behaviors. If you want to be a better version of yourself, this episode is for you.

“What we do is sometimes we get so preoccupied with worrying about things we can’t control, that when we can get to the things that we can do something about, we’re worn out and tired. And what I try to do is get people to simply make a commitment to be someone that when you talk to yourself, you change the way you talk to yourself. To improve the way that I talk to myself, the way I see myself, the secret that’s not a secret, Gabe, is self-love and self-acceptance.” ~Greg Harden

Greg Harden

Greg Harden is a peak performance coach, motivational speaker, and executive consultant best known for his work with seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. He also worked with Heisman Trophy winner, and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard and 23-time Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps. He’s spent more than 30 years counseling, motivating, and coaching them at the University of Michigan, including 400 future professional athletes, 50 NFL first-round draft picks, and 120 Olympians from more than 20 countries. He gained national recognition when “60 Minute Sports” profiled him as “Michigan’s Secret Weapon.”

Gabe Howard

Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.

To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: Hey, listeners, welcome to the show. I’m your host, Gabe Howard. Calling in today we have Greg Harden. Greg is a peak performance coach, motivational speaker, and an executive consultant who is best known for his work with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. His latest book, “Stay Sane in an Insane World,” is out now. Greg, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Harden: Well, thank you for having me. I’m excited as all get out, Gabe.

Gabe Howard: Well, I hope that excitement continues because my first question, I just when I first learned about you, the first thing that popped in my mind is, all right if I hire Greg, will he turn me into Tom Brady or Michael Phelps? Is that a realistic goal for everyone? You’ve had to have been asked this before. Can we all be, can we all be Super Bowl champions?

Greg Harden: We can all be Super Bowl champions in another world. In the world that we’re talking about is becoming the world’s greatest expert on one subject, and that’s on you. And to be the absolute best version of yourself, that’s what you have to do, is simply know yourself better than everybody else does. And everyone’s Super Bowl is different. It won’t be like in the NFL, but you’re trying to knock it out the park every time you get at bat.

Gabe Howard: Let’s jump in with something that you talk about all the time, which are the four A’s. Now the four A’s stand for self-approval, self-acceptance, self attention, and self affection. And while I do love all of those skills, I mean, who would not love to have all of those skills? It sounded a little bit like, hey, are you having money problems? I’ve got the solution. Just make more money. The devil’s

Greg Harden: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: Really in the details. How does somebody acquire those four skills? Because, again, while they sound like skills, all of us should just be born with or just have. But they’re actually quite complicated to find, maintain and believe in.

Greg Harden: Wow. You’re good. Gabe. Think about this.

Gabe Howard: It’s my job. It’s my job.

Greg Harden: You’re my man. Well, what we’re talking about is that there are some basic motivations in our lives, and all of us want to have attention from others affection, to be loved and cared about, to have the approval of others and to be accepted. But if we don’t begin to commit to accepting ourselves, to believing in ourselves, to if we could treat people the way we treat other folks, we’ve got friends in our lives who are the best friend you could ever have. But how they treat themselves is suspect. So what we’re doing is opening up the door for people to look carefully at how they treat themselves, how they talk to themselves, and then if they can’t make, have a breakthrough, just deciding to change, they need to ask for help. What I teach people is to begin to see counseling as a consultant, because we’ll sit up and swear to, you know, I don’t need anybody in my head. I don’t I don’t need a counselor. But if you were running a multi-billion dollar corporation, would you use consultants? Yes. So what I try to do is teach people to understand having a counselor is like hiring a consultant. If you don’t like them, fire them and get another one. I’m making $10 million running Google. I need consultants because I can’t see everything and sometimes I need advice and support. So when we talk about self-love and self-acceptance, when we’re talking about being more attentive, more affectionate to ourselves, if we struggle to do it, ask for help to figure out what are the boundaries, what are the things holding us back from doing it because we’re capable. But sometimes we just don’t know how.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that I love in this is the self-attention and self-affection. Those two things I don’t hear a lot about because loving yourself, I can see where that I. I believe and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but self-affection is would help build self-esteem and self-attention. Working on yourself I we hear about self-care and decompression and taking time to smell the roses, but I don’t think it’s a society. We do it a lot. Can you touch on self-attention and self-affection? Because I, I really do believe that the way we talk to ourselves is in fact never the way that we would talk to others. We’re very cruel to ourselves as a general rule.

Greg Harden: Well, it’s true. We’re so hard on ourselves and what we’re trying to do is get people to just surrender and allow themselves to see how important it is to to be able to trust yourself as your best friend. You want friendships from everybody and you want them to care about you. But if you don’t care about yourself, the love that you’re giving is even suspect. If you want to love more, love yourself more. If you want to be the person that I can depend on, you know, show that you can, you can depend on you. And stop thinking that it’s just some narcissistic nonsense. We’re talking about how important it is to be self-aware, because my self-worth and self-esteem must not be based on what everyone else thinks of us. I have to teach Tom Brady not how to throw a ball. I’ve got to teach him, it doesn’t matter what your coach thinks. What do you think? What do you believe? He’s got to decide with or without football his life is going to be amazing because he chooses himself. All we’re trying to do is get people to, for once in their life, choose you.

Gabe Howard: That really is easier said than done though. Greg. I think of myself, I’m I’m very pessimistic in while I have a lot of confidence in my ability to host a podcast or to to, you know, speak in public in general, my, my self esteem trends towards the lower and many, many, many people have been like, well, Gabe, here are the facts. Well, yes, intellectually I recognize that I’m good at my job. The facts show me that, but I don’t feel it. I don’t believe it. How do you help folks turn that tide?

Greg Harden: Okay, okay, okay. This is a very complicated question, but let me start by saying practice, train and rehearse. How did you get good at podcasts? You did. You didn’t jump into it and were fantastic. You had to what? Practice, train.

Gabe Howard: Work at it.

Greg Harden: And rehearse. You worked at it. You made a commitment. You decided that you were going to practice, training and rehearse until you got as close to perfection as you could. What we’re asking people to do is train for it, see this is this is my key to talking about mental health. Are you ready?

Gabe Howard: Yes.

Greg Harden: We understand that three levels of fitness, what I teach in the book, or anyone that will listen to me, we understand physical fitness. What I talk about is mental fitness and spiritual fitness. So how do you even get to that whole idea of mental fitness? Well, if you understand physical fitness, you know that if I ask you to explain it to me, you’d be talking about endurance and stamina. Flexibility. You’d be talking about cardiovascular excellence. And then till you say the word recovery, recovery time is shortened. You don’t understand fitness. So then what are you saying? That you can give everything you’ve got and you have a minute and a half and then do it again because you’re in shape? Well, then what’s mental fitness? Recovery time. Life is going to give you trials and tribulations, challenges, obstacles. They’re going to be heartaches. There’s going to be grief and loss. How fast you recover talks about your mental fitness. Oh, I’m so confused. Greg, what are you saying?

Gabe Howard: Yeah, I was just getting ready to ask that question.

Greg Harden: Come on, bro. You have to train. See, people will train to be an Olympian. They will train to run the marathon. They will train to be able to walk up the bloody stairs and go see their grandkids. But they don’t train the mind. All we’re doing is increasing people’s understanding of how important it is. To train to be mentally fit. I mean, you do realize I had to do my homework, and, you know, you’re a miracle. Anybody that knows Gabe Howard knows he’s a miracle. How did you become a miracle? You trained yourself to choose yourself. You trained yourself to think differently about bipolarism. You train for that. You didn’t wake up and say, well, I’ve decided. You woke up and you decided you were going to train.

Gabe Howard: There’s hard work. Hard work.

Greg Harden: You were going. You didn’t get it overnight. And you constantly are working at it. Am I right? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Gabe Howard: No, no, these are all absolutely true statements. It’s a long journey that people tend to tell in a quick story, covering 5 or 6 minutes, but those 5 or 6 minutes are one, two, three, four, five, ten years worth of hard work.

Greg Harden: Yes, sir.

Gabe Howard: For people living with bipolar disorder.

Greg Harden: Yes, sir. And so what we’re talking about is training ourselves to understand that the game, the mental game is the game, bro. Half the fun in your life is understanding that the greatest competition in your life is between your ears. [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: I love this analogy of you trained to walk up the steps, you train to win a Super Bowl, you train for the Olympics. And that is a great analogy. But the part that I think is left hanging is if I’m training to walk up the steps, I know when I’m getting better. Yesterday I walked up three steps. Today I walked up four steps. That is improvement that I can put in the bank. When we come over to the mental health side, when we’re trying to improve ourselves internally, mentally, and become stronger and believe in ourselves, that how do we measure it? How can we prove to ourselves that what we’re doing is working?

Greg Harden: Well, you’re looking for data points. You want a quantitative analysis. Let’s work it out. Okay. This is one of the things I’ve been able to teach a handful of people, and that is to be able to identify the moments when you are slipping, dipping and tripping. Okay? To be able to catch yourself when you’re going into that spiral, to be able to be able to identify when negative self-talk is becoming dominant. We know that beating yourself up doesn’t work. Intellectually, we get it, but it’s hard to stop. But what you train people to do is to catch yourself while you’re beating yourself up. Well then guess what they do? Then they beat themselves up for beating themselves up. Right? So what we try to teach anyone is take a book, take your phone and, and capture the moment that you start beating yourself up. You’ll discover you do it more often than you think. Now you got quantitative analysis of how often do I do it? What triggered it? How long did it last? So you start, you start becoming a scientist and you examine how often it happens.

Greg Harden: Then you get to the point where you say, I’m going to reduce the amount of time. I can’t stop it instantly, but I can catch myself. And just when it starts, I can begin to talk to myself differently. It can trigger new habits of how I’m going to talk to myself and over time practice, train and rehearse. Not only can I catch myself, I can decide not to do. And all of a sudden the numbers, the numbers go up, Gabe. The numbers go up in terms of how I can catch myself, how I can create a trigger for new habits to occur. But I’ve got to become so sophisticated that I can actually come up with data points and formulas for how and what I do and how often I do it, and how to reduce so I can’t eliminate, I’m sure. But we need to reduce how often I beat myself up and how much I worry about things I can’t control.

Gabe Howard: And you talk about doing this 100% of the time. This needs to become a lifestyle shift again to to draw on the original analogy. You’re not just practicing walking up the steps for a couple of hours every morning, and then you get on with your day. In mental health, it’s 100% of the time, 100% of the time, 100% of the time.

Greg Harden: Yes, sir. But check this out. Now, when I tell people you must start creating an attitude where you give 100%, 100% of the time at everything you’re doing. What are you saying? I’m saying that even if you can give 100% of the stuff you don’t even like, what happens when you get to the stuff you love? Oh, okay. And then you have to be so honest with people and straightforward with people that you say, is it possible to give 100%, 100% of the time? And they’ll say, heck no. So then what are we trying to do?

Gabe Howard: Well. But, Greg, I thought we had to give 110%. Come on. We’ve all seen the sports movies. You got to give 110%. You’re backing us down to 100. Yeah. [Laughter]

Greg Harden: Yeah. Are you ready for this, though?

Gabe Howard: I am, I am.

Greg Harden: If I’m talking about real people. We know that 100%, 100% of the time is going to be virtually impossible. But if my mindset, if my unlimited mindset, if my default mode is to try to give 100%, 100% of the time, my worst day suddenly becomes better than the average person’s best day. So all of a sudden I’ve shifted from my off day being 30%. I’ve shifted from my off day being 50%, and now my off day is 85%. I think that’s a that’s above average, isn’t it?

Gabe Howard: I think so. And one of the things that I read a lot and I full disclosure to our listeners, Greg did not say this, but I think you’re going to agree with it is if you wake up in the morning and you’ve only got 50% to give and you give it all, you did, in fact give 100%, because many people who only have 50% to give,

Greg Harden: My man.

Gabe Howard: They, they, they, they stay home. Well, then we’re back at zero.

Greg Harden: Come on, come on, come on. Preach! Gabe. Think about it.

Gabe Howard: But it’s true. It’s true.

Greg Harden: We’ll think about what you’re saying. Think about how important what you just said was. We have to put it in a context that is grounded in reality.

Sponsor Break

Gabe Howard: And we’re back with peak performance coach, motivational speaker, and author of “Stay Sane in an Insane World,” Greg Harden.

Greg Harden: So, all I’m trying to do is have a mentality that I’m going to give the best I’ve got today. And if all I’ve got is 50%, I’m going to give you all of it. All that I have, and that’s a game changer, because instead of staying in the bed and wallowing and in despair, I’m going to at least give what I can.

Gabe Howard: I’m going to do the best I can at every moment, right? That’s the shift.

Greg Harden: That’s a major shift. You also mentioned earlier you said, well, intellectually you get it. And I love talking to you because, you know, I’m preaching to the choir. Think about this, the stuff that you have survived. People sometimes are so preoccupied with what’s wrong and beating again, beating themselves up, worrying about things they can’t control, that they fail to focus. I have to train myself to not just understand it intellectually. I’ve got to feel it in my heart. I’ve got to have my belief system.

Gabe Howard: Greg, I want to shift gears ever so slightly. And you, you’ve got a lot of great wisdom on a, on a great, great many topics. But one of the things that I saw were your self-defeating attitudes and behaviors. And we got a lot of great things in there. Things that I think that our listeners can relate to, things like self-doubt and overgeneralizing. But one of the things that caught my attention is you specifically listed refusing to admit that you’re wrong. And we see this in all levels, from from government to athletes to famous people to, well, any holiday dinner with family where people will just not admit that they made a mistake or that they got something wrong, and you’ve actually spent some time on why this is hurting the people who won’t admit they’re wrong. Can you share that with our listeners? Because it was fascinating.

Greg Harden: Wow. Thanks, Gabe. I feel like I’m in a basketball game. You just threw me an alley oop. [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: I like to give people easy ones. [Laughter]

Greg Harden: Yeah. Think about it. How there’s a part of our personality that can be stuck in self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, the ways that I think or the ways that I might act that can sabotage my success, my success at work, my success in relationships that are meaningful. My success is just caring about me, loving me. So what we teach people is to first define the term self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, the ways that I think, the ways that I might act, that could sabotage my dreams. So you want to be able to identify those things that set you up to fail, and not ever admitting that you’re wrong is a recipe for disaster. Not being able to receive feedback. Not be able to allow anyone to critique me. Because I’m afraid of criticism. In order to grow, I have to identify. What do I need to stop doing? What is it I need to start doing? And what can I continue to do? Because I have some success in my life, there’s some things that I’ve done well that I can continue to do, but what is it that I need to stop doing?

Gabe Howard: That is a good point. And we all know someone who can admit when they are wrong. And let’s be honest, we don’t have a high opinion of that person. So when we refuse to admit our own mistakes or our own errors or our own faults, we’re doing the same thing. Is that one of those things of how not admitting that you are wrong is hurting you and stopping your growth, because now everyone is looking at you and having a poor opinion.

Greg Harden: Look, if you are a jerk and everyone knows it but you, there’s a problem.

Gabe Howard: Fair enough.

Greg Harden: All we’re trying to do is just be so sophisticated. They can look at their own ways of operating that could sabotage their dream. Of course, we won’t stop there, because we’ve got to flip the script and tell you how to look at self-supporting attitudes and behaviors. But the first thing you have to be able to do is look in the mirror. When I see something in somebody I really don’t like, every now and then I have to go look in the mirror and make sure I’m not doing the same thing. That’s a deliberate action that we can take. It’s like if somebody pushes my buttons and I’ve got to sometimes reflect and say, do I do that? And if I do, I just caught myself. And so when you’re looking at people and passing judgment and criticizing them, make sure that you look at yourself and say, I hope I’m not like that. And if I am, I need to do something about it. That’s a level of sophistication that’s called maturity.

Gabe Howard: Let’s touch on the asking for help, because many people believe that asking for help means that you can’t do it on your own, and that it shows weakness. But you’re saying the exact opposite that asking for help is these are my words, not yours. But it is almost a superpower.

Greg Harden: That’s really a great way of looking at it. I’ll tell you how I was raised, and this is a true story, and a lot of people can relate. They didn’t have the same father I had, but they may have had the same father I had. Think about this. I remember being eight years old. Gabe, I’m eight years old. I go out into the yard and pops is doing the yard work, or he’s working on the car and I said, hey, dad, what are you doing? He said, no, no, no, no. And I said, can I help? And you know what my father says to me, Gabe?

Gabe Howard: What did he say?

Greg Harden: He said, boy, if you see me in a bear fight. A what? He say, if you see me in a bear fight, don’t help me. Help the bear. I don’t know what the heck he’s talking about at eight. By the time I’m 14, Gabe, I know exactly what he’s saying. A man don’t need no help. You’ve been programmed and brainwashed into that nonsense of not asking for help. It’s a fool’s errand. It’s fool’s gold. You do need help if you want to be successful and you want to be the best. You ask for help. You request help. You demand help. You expect help and you use it. I’m sorry, I get excited.

Gabe Howard: No. I like the excitement. I like the enthusiasm. I sincerely, and I don’t think people recognize this. I live with bipolar disorder. I’m a mental health advocate, and I spend a lot of time helping people reach recovery in peer support groups and in speeches and in writing and, of course, in podcasts. And the number of people who come up to me and they’re like, well, how did you get better? And, you know, I give them the list, right? And one of the things that’s on the list is I humbled myself enough to accept support and help from others. I had a great family, a great support system, and I listened to the people around me and they’re like, well, I can’t do that. I’m like, why not? It’s like, well, nobody’s willing to help me. Okay, well, I understand, I understand if you feel that nobody’s willing to help you, that’s a separate problem. You got to then we get into. But have you gone to the support groups? Have you joined the you know you’re looking for? But let’s move that aside for a moment to not get overly bogged down by my example. But what I’m shocked about is the number of people who are like, my parents want to help me. My siblings want to help me, my friends want to help me. But I tell them that no, this is my journey and I have to go on it alone. And I just blankly stare at them and I’m like, why do you believe that? Where did this come from?

Greg Harden: Well, let me make it real easy for you. What separates Tom Brady? Desmond Howard, Heisman Trophy winner, MVP of Super Bowl Michael Phelps and some of the shakers and movers. What separates you from other folks, Gabe, who are going through what you’ve gone through and are going through. What separated you is the word you used. Humble. Let me tell you what the difference between the superstars I’ve worked with and other folks. Not only were they hungry, they were humble. If you do not tap into that part of your brain that allows you to understand humility is not humiliation. Humility is surrendering the ego at the right time because you are invested in becoming healthy, happy, and sane. So it takes a humble ego. So the ego gets a bad rap in pop psychology. Without your ego, you wouldn’t get up this morning. So your ego has to be your ally, not your enemy in the surrender of the ego and say, look, I need help. I remember how arrogant I was. Because my arrogance did not want me to ask for help. Gabe, I’m a helper. I’m a professional helper, and I hate asking for help. I have to manipulate my own mind today to ask for help, and I have to humble myself and be hungry enough for success that I’ll do whatever it takes to get it. And that includes being able to ask for support and advice and direction from others. And here’s how you can protect your ego. The ego gets to say, and I can accept or reject their advice, but I’m going to ask for it.

Gabe Howard: Greg, thank you so much for being here. Your book, “Stay Sane in an Insane World,” is, of course, out now and available wherever books are sold. Where can folks learn more about you online?

Greg Harden: Well, believe it or not, YouTube recently loves me. There’s all kinds of amazing interviews, like the one with you was going to end up on YouTube, so you can put my name in on YouTube and find all kinds of stuff. In addition to that, I’m old and so I have a website.

Gabe Howard: [Laughter] Websites are still popular.

Greg Harden: For at least for me it is. So GregHarden.com. H A R D E N is is online. And you can find the book, it’s all over the place for some odd reason. I’ve gotten popular in my old age. And I’m having a ball laughing as people, their response to the book has been so amazing. Gabe, I appreciate your giving me an opportunity to talk about what I’m doing. And because right now this is about legacy. I’m trying to leave something special that says that I was here. You understand?

Gabe Howard: I do.

Greg Harden: So I’ve made money. Now can I make a difference before I leave this planet? That’s what this book is all about.

Gabe Howard: Greg, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Greg Harden: Thank you sir.

Gabe Howard: You are very welcome, Greg.And I want to give a big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard, and I am an award winning public speaker. And I could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. But I’m telling you, you want the signed copy with free podcast swag that you can get on my website, gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It is absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And listen, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show. Share it on social media. Send it in an email. Bring it up at a support group. Hell, send somebody a text, because sharing the show is how we’re going to grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.

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